6 actionable ways to reward & recognise employee performance

by Molly Johnston | Dec 07, 2022

time icon 6 mins

Employees are the heart of any organisation; without them, your company would simply not function as it should. That’s why keeping your teams motivated, engaged, and happy at work is absolutely essential.

One way to tick all three off the list is to recognise and reward employees’ achievements. If your staff feel appreciated, they’re much more likely to stick around (and remain happy while doing so). 

In fact, recent data shows that 87% of engaged employees are less likely to resign from their current companies. No surprises there. 

Although you may have hired with the best intent and created a workforce you’re proud of, the wrong environment, weak values and lack of recognition are only going to cause the same top talent to become unhappy at work, ultimately hindering your progress as an organisation. 

Finding the right strategy to motivate your workers can be tough, but rewarding employees effectively is one of the best ways to do so. Here, we list 6 actionable employee recognition ideas and rewards to celebrate your staff’s success.

1. Define what “good performance” really means

A good place to start is to understand exactly what good performance really means to you. The textbook definition of good performance is, “achieving agreed goals and objectives with successful outcomes”.

For you as an employer, this is more than likely what you’re trying to encourage from your workforce. However, depending on the precise goals you’re looking to attain, the way you communicate what good performance means to you is expected to change. 

There are many instances when management presents company objectives without consensus from all team members. Which is a real shame, as employees are 3.6x more likely to be engaged if their manager involves them in goal setting for performance management purposes. 

Many change initiatives fail due to this very common mistake. Agreeing and communicating your unique business goals together is crucial in defining what you expect from your staff in terms of performance. 

As well as helping employees feel like they’re taking charge of something they’re passionate about, they can also align employees with the company’s goals in a wider context.

Once you have your OKRs (Objectives and key results) figured out, make expectations black and white for all of your employees. This way, they will be completely clear on their responsibilities and how you expect them to perform.

2. Invest in personalised development plans

Personal development plans outline the goals and objectives an individual has for their own growth and development. A great way to document progress and performance over time, a personal development plan typically includes self-assessment, an analysis of current skills and abilities, and highlights areas for improvement. 

In addition to identifying where an employee needs development and support, be sure to build, celebrate and develop the skills and qualities they already possess.

As an employer, investing in personal development plans for your staff will motivate employees to achieve their goals and boost their growth at your organisation. As a result, employee productivity is increased and employee turnover is reduced, so you can develop a more skilled and capable workforce to improve how your business operates overall.

It’s important to have a good understanding of where everyone stands and where they’re headed as you consider wider company objectives together and how you will achieve them.

Including personalised development plans as part of your employee experience strategy allows employees to develop new skills and abilities, which can be seen as an acknowledgement in itself. They can also provide employees with a clear understanding of how they can advance in their careers, which supports that all-important motivation. 

When it comes to professional development plans, OKRs are the perfect fit due to their versatility and flexibility. OKRs have become one of the most popular and effective tools for professional development.

By creating a development plan that breaks down your larger professional objective and makes it measurable and time-bound, it’s a lot clearer to see progress!

Create effective professional development plans

3. Celebrate their achievements, big or small

celebrating team members demonstrating company values

A solid way to recognise employees’ successes is to celebrate all of their work achievements, big or small. When your workers feel appreciated and that their efforts haven’t gone unnoticed, employee engagement is boosted and morale is lifted – increasing their overall job satisfaction and performance.

As an employer, you’re likely to celebrate bigger achievements as they’re often the ones that make the most impact from the outset. However, it’s just as important to celebrate your employees’ small wins too. In doing so, you’re able to reinforce positive behaviours and encourage workers to keep putting their best foot forward.

Recognising and rewarding small achievements can help to build a positive and supportive work culture, where employees feel comfortable taking risks and trying new things. This can foster innovation and creativity in the long term, leading to improved performance and success for the organisation as a whole.

4. Ingrain employee rewards into your company culture

Company culture has become somewhat of an HR buzzword in recent years. As workers move away from traditional workplace desires, a lot more focus (and rightfully so), has been placed on a company’s culture and how they foster a more positive working environment. 

Making these small but powerful changes has led to top candidates choosing organisations with the best culture, over paychecks, and keeping them retained.

Ensuring your employee recognition programme is part of your company culture lets prospective and existing employees know what to expect if they perform to your company’s standard. Having it as part of your culture means that employees are consistently reminded of what they can achieve through their efforts.

Ingraining recognition and rewards into your workplace culture can also help to foster a sense of collaboration and teamwork, leading to better communication, cooperation, and problem-solving.

5. Reward when your core company values are demonstrated

retain engaged employees

Making your company values clear at all stages of employment is essential for creating a positive working relationship between you and your employees.

Clear company values can help to create a sense of shared purpose and direction, which can help to motivate and engage employees long-term. If your employees believe that their work directly links to what you’re trying to achieve as a business overall, they are far more likely to perform to a high standard. 

As a simple example, let’s take one of There Be Giant’s core values, ‘Strive to be better. If a member of the team demonstrates continuous innovation, and aims to improve what we do and how we do it to benefit the rest of TBG, then we’ll want to celebrate their efforts. 

When core values are demonstrated, it’s crucial to reward your employees and remind them why. By rewarding and recognising workers for demonstrating behaviours that align with your values, you reinforce your core values to all of your other employees.

6. Understand the importance of personalised and specific recognition

The most successful employee rewards programmes and feedback sessions are personalised and specific to each employee. Depending on the type of person you’re rewarding, you need to think about what they would appreciate more.

One thing is for sure, you shouldn’t just wait for an annual appraisal or review – in fact, we’d ditch those entirely – these should be regular, ongoing conversations. 

Use what you know about your employee’s goals, needs, and traits to personalise your reward to them. 

Understanding your people is key to keeping your best employees motivated, engaged, and happy for longer. Unsure about what certain employees would like? Don’t be afraid to ask them.

In summary

If you haven’t already, the first step in implementing an actionable employee rewards programme is to define what good performance means to you as an organisation. It can be a challenge to define at first, but once it is aligned across the business and everybody has weighed in, ensuring your employees understand how their performance contributes to your company mission is essential.

Once you have outlined the basics, it’s a matter of personalising how each reward and recognition work for each employee. If your workforce feels valued and appreciated their efforts are bound to continue, improving how your company operates and the overall employee experience. 

Need help defining and communicating what success means to you? Download our goal alignment guide. This toolkit contains everything you’ll need to get going, all while maintaining your values. 

Get your ultimate guide to alignment